Manager Relishing the Challenge

Tommy Hewitt is embracing the managerial challenge of improving the fortunes of a fledgling Sligo Rovers team, now in its third season, as he explained to CONALL COLLIER after last Saturday’s Women’s Premier Division (WPD) game against Peamount Utd.

The former Athlone Town boss had little time to relax after the 2023 mid-season break before he received a call from the Showgrounds, which he was happy to answer, taking over the role vacated by Steve Feeney at the end of last season.

“I have to say that it has been a breath of fresh air for me since I took on this role, and I have been welcomed by everyone at the club: the players, the committee, and the supporters,” he commented.

“But I’m not here for the compliments or anything like that. I know what’s required, and my long-term target, and that of the club, is to get results and to win silverware,” he added.

Saturday’s outing at PRL Park against the defending WPD champions marked the midpoint of the season, and the Bit O’Red is still searching for its first win of 2024.

“We have a plan in place. I’m only six months into this journey with Sligo Rovers, and I know what is required to produce a competitive team that will challenge at the top end of the table,” he stated.

“I did something similar with Athlone Town. They are top of the table now after the weekend results, and they also won the FAI Cup last season.

“Despite our league position, it’s reasonable to suggest that the Sligo Rovers players aren’t too far off the pace, although we haven’t won a game so far this season.

“You could see that on Saturday. Against a quality team like Peamount, they had to work hard for the victory, but they scored two excellent goals.

“We had a game plan, and for the most part, it worked well. We had a couple of chances but just didn’t take them.

“Basically, that was the difference over 90 minutes. Not wishing to take anything away from Peamount, but we weren’t outclassed in any way, and you are always in with a chance when it’s a one-goal game.

“Peamount only made it safe, from their perspective, with a second goal near the end,” he added.

And what about the challenges that have to be negotiated this season? Is there a remedy in the short term?

“We have two options: we either work with the players we have and those coming through from the under-age teams at the club, or we bring in some experienced players,” he suggested.

“We have to bridge that gap, but that’s something that will take time, to mold a young and inexperienced side into a winning side.

“This is a long-term project, and we are making progress in developing the best talent in the region.

“Looking at the league table at the moment, it could suggest that Sligo Rovers have declined from last season.

“However, that would not be a fair assessment because all the teams have improved. The standards are improving, and overall, that’s a positive development.

“Take the likes of Treaty Utd and Cork City, both ahead of us now. They have brought in some very experienced players, and that’s reflected in their results this season.

“We played Cork in the Showgrounds, and it’s a game I felt we could have won, but we lost narrowly. We got a point away against Treaty, and in our opening game of the season, we got a point away to Shelbourne,” he added.

Can Sligo Rovers find some improvement for the second half of the season, starting with a home game against Shelbourne on Saturday week?

“We are now at the midway point of the season. It has been a little frustrating; we should have beaten Cork and Bohs, but you will always have inconsistencies with a young team,” said Tommy.

“We certainly have the talent coming through, but I don’t like throwing the girls in at the deep end. We have players coming back from injuries, and that will help us.

“It’s also a great boost to see Keri and Jodie Loughrey in the Republic of Ireland under-19 squad for the UEFA European Championships in Lithuania in mid-July.

“We also have to acknowledge the performances of a player like Keeva Flynn. She is a 16-year-old in central defense on a team that hasn’t won a game this season.

“Keeva wouldn’t look out of place on any other team in the league, but she is still learning. She’s learning on the job, and that’s a big challenge for her.

“I’d prefer to ease her into senior football, but circumstances dictate differently, and she will be a very important player for the club.

“What I admire about all the players is the fact that they retain both confidence and belief in themselves, and that’s hugely important.

“We have Terenure Rangers in the FAI Cup at the beginning of next month, and that will bring a different type of pressure. We will be expected to win that game.

“We will approach the second half of the season with the initial objective to get a win in the league, get more points on the board, and move away from the foot of the table,” he concluded.